Buffalo soldier may finally get 1899 promotion

buffalo soldiers

It’s taken more than 110 years, but it looks as if a promotion recommended by John J. Pershing may finally go through.

Sgt. Paschal Conley, a so-called Buffalo Soldier because he served in a black US Army regiment, was recommended for promotion to second lieutenant by then-1st Lt. Pershing in 1899, call it “a fitting recognition of (Conley’s) long and honorable service.”

Conley served from 1879 until 1906 and fought in the Spanish-American War, according to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, Pershing’s recommendation was never acted upon.

Conley’s descendants contacted Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner W. Clyde Marsh to rectify the situation, who then turned to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sessions included a posthumous promotion for Conley in a Senate-approved defense bill.

Sessions asked the Army about “righting this wrong” and posthumously upgrading Conley’s rank, according to a spokesman for the senator. He was advised that legislation was required.

Congress has acted before to posthumously recognize long-deceased veterans, according to the Times.

“A provision of last year’s defense authorization directs the Defense Department to determine whether Jewish recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross or other military decorations for service during World War I should posthumously receive the Medal of Honor,” the publication reported. “It was added to the bill at the urging of an octogenarian daughter of a Jewish World War I veteran.”

Marsh, the Alabama Veterans Affairs Commissioner, praised Conley: “As a pioneer in the legendary Buffalo Soldiers 10th Cavalry, he was a unique role model and a sage leader. In fact, it appears he was ahead of his time as he came up through the ranks, apparently excelling, ultimately earning a field recommendation for promotion from noncommissioned officer to commissioned officer when there were no established routes for men of his race and ethnicity at that point in time.”

Marsh added that he believed that if Pershing, who would go on to gain fame by leading the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, advocated that Conley be promoted, it was deserved.

“If he recommended Sgt. Conley for a promotion, I am confident that it was well earned and warranted,” he told the Times. “It would appear that the proper paperwork was submitted but did not get through the system and processed. It is also apparent to me that we, the United States and our US Army, have the ability to correct this mistake, which would be the right thing to do.”

(Above: Buffalo Soldiers in Georgia in 1898.)

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4 thoughts on “Buffalo soldier may finally get 1899 promotion

  1. Pingback: Buffalo soldier may finally get 1899 promotion « The Cotton Boll Conspiracy | Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid

    • I was in the Army and a first Lt. is a low ranking officer, because he recommends something didn’t have much weight. It is up to much higher ranking officers to determine if the promotion is warranted. Apparently they did not.

      • It’s probably small consolation to the family, but just the fact that this individual rose from private to be recommended for 2nd Lieutenant is rather remarkable, given the racial climate of the 1890s.

        As an aside, I pondered Pershing’s rise. In 1898 he was a 1st Lieutenant; less than 20 years later he was in charge of the entire US Army in Europe. Not too bad.

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